Meryl Streep is either the greatest woman alive and speaking the truth about Walt Disney, or she’s an out of touch Hollywood dinkus who has no clue what Walt Disney was like. That’s what I’ve taken from the recent uproar surrounding some controversial remarks Streep made at the National Board of Review’s tribute to Emma Thompson. From The Guardian:
While honouring Emma Thompson at a dinner for the National Board of Review on Tuesday night, Meryl Streep made an extraordinary speech that criticised Walt Disney for being a “gender bigot” who was a member of an antisemitic lobbying organisation.
Streep, perhaps Hollywood’s most respected and beloved actor, showed she is far from a cosy establishment figure as she carefully trod a line between praising Thompson and attacking Disney. The very film Thompson was being celebrated for, Saving Mr Banks, is based around Walt Disney’s persuading of PL Travers to allow him to adapt Mary Poppins.
According to Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh, Streep called Thompson “a beautiful artist” who is “practically a saint”, and read out a self-penned poem to the actor, before launching into her criticisms of Disney. She quoted a letter he wrote to a female animator that read: “Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men.” She also noted that Disney’s colleague Walter Kimball said that his boss “didn’t trust women or cats.”
Little did Disney know, but cats didn’t trust him much either. Not after Lady & The Tramp. These comments led to quite the split between the Disney supporters and critics out there, many saying she was out of line and misinformed on the subject. This includes former Disney animator Floyd Norman, who worked on Sleeping Beauty and other Disney classics. From Fox411 :
“I arrived at Disney in 1956 as a young artist. Surprisingly, there were a fair number of young women working in the art department. I too had heard that women were not allowed in animation. So, even in the ’50s, things were already beginning to change,” he told FOX411. “While it is true the studio regarded women differently from men in the ’30s, I found many young women who had nothing but good things to say about their years in Ink and Paint. Most loved Uncle Walt and never regarded him as a sexist…”
“The myths surrounding Walt Disney are to be expected, I guess. Like most famous men of his time, his legacy has continually been challenged,” Norman said. “No matter how many times we refute the lies about Walt, they seem to continue. I think some people will simply never like the man, no matter what we have to say.”
Hey, it’s a lot of fun picking on dead guys. That’s why it keeps happening. They can’t fight back too much.
And even if that is the golden age of life that many in America want us to return to, it isn’t a far fetched idea that Disney and crew might’ve been into a little bit the ol’ bigotry in their day. No reason to crucify the guy because he might’ve been a card carrying hate monger. We even elect some of them to Congress. Just common sense, right?
So Streep has been denied and discredited. Her off the cuff remarks on stage during Emma Thompson’s dinner were just an embarrassing mistake and we can all move past it. But wait! Someone cries out in the distance! And it’s a Disney! From Yahoo:
Walt Disney’s grandniece Abigail Disney — a filmmaker, scholar and social activist — addressed Streep’s comments last Friday on her Facebook page, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “If you are going to have mixed feelings about a family member (and we all do) take it from me, you really need to be as honest as possible about those feelings, or else you are going to lead yourself into many a blind alley in life!!”
This is a bombshell! Get ready you old, crusty corpse, it’s about to go down!
“I feel I have to clarify. I LOVED what Meryl Streep said. I know he was a man of his times and I can forgive him, but Saving Mr Banks was a brazen attempt by the company to make a saint out of the man. A devil he was not. Nor an angel. That’s the point and if you read ALL her remarks you’ll know that’s exactly what she was getting at. She said exactly what I said about how in spite of it all, his vision was amazing and he brought joy to so many around the world. So I say Brava Meryl. I don’t believe in bashing for bashing’s sake but whenever we see a misplaced attempt at hagiography we need to speak our minds!”
OK, only kinda take that. Maybe like a gut punch or something. A light slap to the face.
Now this isn’t the first time Abigail Disney has spoken against her grandfather and the Walt Disney Company, having posted criticism in the past and attempting to renounce her piece of the Disney pie. From The Hollywood Reporter:
Back in 2012, Abigail attempted to renounce her share of the profits from the Disneys’ investment in the Ahava cosmetics company, which is based in a West Bank settlement, stating, “I cannot in good conscience profit from what is technically the ‘plunder’ or ‘pillage’ of occupied natural resources.” When she found that she was legally unable to do so, she donated the investments and profits “to organizations working to end this illegal exploitation.”
That’s some heavy stuff. And almost enough to convince me that Disney might be a terrible company. But then I pop in my copies of The Mighty Ducks trilogy and forget all of that sh*t. Gordon Bombay is my spirit guide through life and he’s telling me to drive drunk and coach kids.
The gist of this story is that we are back to square one. There is a vocal group of people who believe that Walt Disney was a pretty terrible individual. They are countered by a group who think he was a saint that made the world a little brighter. I have no real opinion aside from making poorly constructed jokes about the man and wishing he really was frozen at death. At least he isn’t Woody Allen.
(Lead image via gettyimages)